I speak two languages, Body and English. – Mae West
I’m not sure when I became aware there was a lot more being “said” when I interacted with people than just the spoken words.
I’m sure we’ve all had those experiences when our parents knew immediately when we were not being completely truthful. My Mom was especially in tune with me. Was it her mother’s Intuition or was it something in the way I behaved that made her suspicious?
That question sparked a curiosity that stayed with me, making body language one of my favorite research topics to read about over the years.
Today, a post from Healthyways.com caught my attention: 7 Habits That Make People Seem Less Intelligent by Michael Taylor.
As I read over the seven points discussed, I could picture certain situations in my past where I could see myself or someone I was with making these same mistakes. Let me share Michael’s insights.
-Dressing too casually for the situation. I will always remember a male friend–one I was trying to impress–making the comment about a woman who had walked into the restaurant. It was a Saturday morning and we were all at a business meeting. I saw no reason to dress up. I was in my jeans, a t-shirt, and tennis shoes. The woman walking towards us wore a nice pair of slacks, a well-pressed casual blouse, and dress shoes. It began to dawn on me that even though it was a Saturday, we were all at a professional meeting. I needed to stay aware of how I presented myself. Not only did I underdress but what I wore was not in the best condition. From that day on, I would dress for the occasion and the situation.
-Like our moms told us, stand up straight. A poor posture gives the impression we have little energy and/or confidence. I have to agree with Michael when he says women tend to make themselves smaller when they are in certain social situations. Men, on the other hand, tend to puff themselves up and expand into their environment. I am an introvert by nature. I learned early on I needed to take a minute before going into meetings or social events to visualize myself as strong and successful. As I captured that image, I’d stand up straighter and taller. My mantra was and still is when I find myself in certain stressful situations–fake it until you make it.
-The next behavior noted in this article surprised me. The author says that excessive head tilts and nods make the person appear vulnerable or submissive. The picture that came to my mind was my dog, Bud. When you talk to him, he will tilt his head this way and that. I had to admit, he’s certainly cute, not particularly intelligent looking. Over nodding confused me because I felt nodding was a subconscious signal of listening. With overuse, nodding gives the appearance we are agreeing to everything or we have no opinion or ideas of our own. The author cautions some other head positions. Looking down can give the impression you are shy while looking up makes you appear aloof or arrogant. Best advice–keep your chin parallel to the ground.
-Miss using words or phrases. This point made me wince because I have been guilty of this so many times. In an attempt to appear much smarter than I was feeling, I grasp for words that I would not ordinarily use. In my haste to get those words or phrases out there and look great–I stumble on the tense or the correct pronunciation. I learned it is always best to present the real me.
-Using language softeners. This was a new phrase for me as well but definitely describes something I do all the time. I, like many women, find it difficult to accept a compliment. When someone notes something I have done, I tend to minimalize it, crediting my team or co-workers instead of simply saying thank you. Such an easy thing to do but one I struggle with yet today. An interesting suggestion made in this article and a pertinent one for me as I continue to battle allergies. Be aware of mouth breathing. Not only does it make your face look a little odd but it can accentuate the sound of your breathing. Be aware–any loud breathing is definitely not going to give the impression you want.
-Be cautious about being too judgmental. Criticizing someone you don’t like shines a negative light on you, not them. It makes those around you think you are trying to make yourself look better at someone else’s expense. When you speak about others negatively, it shows a lack of compassion–would you say those things if you’d ever been “in their shoes?” Gossiping is never good. It makes people question what you say about them when they are not around. It is a true trust buster. And–heaven forbid–what if the gossip you shared turned out to be untrue. That makes you look doubly bad.
-Using profanity. Oh, the times when the “F” word has come flying out of my mouth! Even though there’s been a recent study saying that people who use profanity are more intelligent, I’m thinking it’s still bad judgment. When my speech becomes overpopulated with four-letter words I know I am tired and I am stressed. When my filters are in good working condition, I have the discipline to grab onto more socially acceptable words. Profanity, regardless of why it’s used, shows a definite lack of class. I have had to really watch myself since we’ve moved south–the tone and the verbiage here are much more gentle.
I enjoyed reading a little about body language today–hope you did, too. It prompted some sweet memories of my Mom, making me smile at some of the stories I tried to sell her. I will continue to read and share.
“Our first experience of life is primarily felt in the *body.* … We know ourselves in the security of those who hold us and gaze upon us. It’s not heard or seen or thought it’s felt. That’s the original knowing.”
― Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer